Friday, March 14, 2014

Mt. San Jacinto: FKT Cactus to Clouds


San Diego at Sunrise
I’m on a search for the perfect ride; a simplified and stripped down perspective--every day.  From the saddle of a bike, outside the breakers at dawn, or chasing alpenglow on a new trail; simple pleasures. "Simplify, simplify." A tape worm road through a range I've never ridden, Hank Williams shouting through headphones, off camber turns, goose bump arms; child-like smile. Running a trail, steep enough to require thought, technical enough to stay present; freedom, solitude, and independence--that is why we go. Perspective, inspiration, and a spanking--that is what we get.  I play outside because it’s fun, the faster I go the more fun I have.

I’m fascinated by snoring.  Really, so impressive.  The most soft spoken petite Asian man, projecting with such confidence when he’s not awake. Social dynamics are weird, the body does whatever it damn well pleases.  On an adjacent bunk and on his side, an accordion of noise; baritone meets burping, inhale. Whistling Dixie please let me sleep, exhale.  I’m on a bunk at the San Diego Hostel, it’s 1AM.


New Hampshire.  Winter riding.


A few years back I cycled from Phoenix to San Diego (SD) then linked up with “The Christmas Tour;” a 500 mile cycle tour--the most fun a person will ever have on two wheels.

The ride is organized by sons and daughters of 1980s cycling legends--started as a way for professional cyclists to get base miles as a family; awesome.  Now in it’s nearly 30th year, the route and company are world class; sleeping on church floors, elementary school room floors, and in community center gymnasiums--it’s more about the ride and less about the fluff.  Communal meals enhance interaction, there is no WiFi, all walks of life; upright bikes, recumbent bikes, couples now married who met on the tour riding tandem with their toddler in tow.  
San Diego.  Winter riding.


Typically the longer a tour survives the stronger and more efficient it gets--just like us; well oiled with less stress as the years go by, aside from the hills and flat tires.  Ever since The Christmas Tour I’d been trying to get back and do variations on the route--this was that moment.

In a basin around a bonfire, somewhere near Seward, Alaska after Mount Marathon:

Patrick: If you like vert in a short distance check out Cactus to Clouds.

Me: Where is Cactus to Clouds?

And so it was.  Like most escapades, a seed gets planted, the idea festers, and you either do it or you don’t.


9 days in numbers:

16,500 meters: Distance Swam
21,400 feet: Vertical Gain Ran
32,000 feet: Vertical Gain Ridden
6: number of hours slept in Chicago Airport
Many: Ounces of beer
1: Number of Pappa John’s pizza’s eaten


NOAA called for 100% chance of precipitation in San Diego County; it was time to head east and run in the desert.


I woke early on February the 26th. Clear skies and cool temps in the valley (5AM Palm Springs).

I didn't preview Skyline Trail (Cactus to Clouds) but had read trip reports, studied the route, and recently run a similar profile, which can be found here:

Alive, inspired, and getting cold near the Tram Station.

2/26/14 @ approx. 6:45AM

Recollection of the run in segments:

Segment 1: Why are there so many spur trails?  Am I on pace?  This is a steep hill.  I feel heavy.

Segment 2: I'm dropping south off the ridge towards a valley.  Why am I dropping? Effort spikes, angry pace ensues, tempo is found.

Segment 3: It's leveling off a bit, is it supposed to level off this much?  Mad pace continues. I find flow near the 1:15 mark.

Segment 4:  It's steep again.  Heavy legs.  I fall.

Segment 5: Around the 2hr mark, after rock pillar.  A glimpse of the tram! "Pick-up-your-feet.  You must be close."

Segment 6: Climb after the traverse; I'm not that close.

Segment 7: Cold.  Low blood sugar. (Upper tram station)

Segment 8:  (Lower tram station) Sierra Nevada on draft.  You can read minds?  "Wait, I have to walk 4 miles down to the highway to catch a bus?"

Segment 9: Walked 4 miles to HWY, hitch hiked, got picked up by a very cool couple from Canada; THANK YOU (if you're reading this).


     The number of off-ramps down low and mid-route are a deterrent.  Had a person done recon and previous attempts for time on the route-->beneficial short cuts are likely available.  Stumbling into cactus land on an off-ramp and having to push on or re-trace; not fast or efficient.  These detours did nothing but break rhythm and tempo.  

     -Accessibility: The aesthetics of gaining over 8,000ft in such a short distance, at a route so accessible, in and of itself is enough to get stoked and hopefully inspire folks to go after this time.  If you come from winterland and you trail run--Idylwilde is a good mountain town hub/launch pad with plenty of trails.

     -Tram: Going super hard and thinking "base to summit" and not "base-summit-base" allows a person to go light and fast.  Light and fast is fun.

     The route: I like that there are not a lot of markers yet at the same time, this is a high traffic trail with many novice hikers going up for an hour (max) then turning around; more blatant signage down low for the gumbies might help the spur trail problem. -->spurt trails up on the ridge: I'd be willing to bet are by fast local hikers-->it's your backyard-->who am I to say where to and not to go? 

-High of 79dF (Valley Floor)
-43dF (Tram Station)
-Recent Rain/precip-->none-->no ice
-Snow level: not an issue this year
*Weather is like a river; dynamic and never the same.  Please do not assume that my listed gear below will work for a person under similar circumstances.

-Top: La Sportiva Persuit Race Tank
-Bottom: La Sportiva Race Short
-Feet: La Sportiva C-Lite 2.0
-Cargo: Ultimate Direction Fastdraw 20 + Camelback Delany Race (bottle hip belt)
-Micro Spikes: left them in the car
Emergency Burrito (strapped to Delany Race belt)
-Petzl e+Lite
-Storm Pass Pro ST wind/rain coat
-Novara arm warmers
-Turtle Fur beanie
-Nike run gloves
-Cell phone
Run nutrition:
-Bonk Breaker BP&J bar
-One bottle electrolyte drink + one bottle water (only dusted one bottle)
-PowerBar Cola Gummies (did not use)

Pre run PM nutrition:
-Serria Nevada Torpedo IPA (x3)
-Papa Johns Vegetarian Pizza w/meat prepped at hostel (x1)
-Almond M&M’s; the large bag (of course)
AM Pre-Run:
-Last slice of pizza

Logistics: I didn't think them through.  Had to hitchhike back to Palm Springs after walking four miles from lower tram/drop off down to HWY 111.  Would advise dropping a bike at lower tram pre-run, driving to start, then riding back to car/TH post run. Winds seem to blow south while I was there so it'd be at your back and a good spin out for the loaded legs.

:13 Picnic tables
:29 (Rescue Station #1)
1:01 (marked rock cairn)
1:28 (Rescue Station #2)
1:40 (Flat Rock)
2:03 (Rock Pillar, lookers right)
2:21 (Grubs Sign) *just before tram (approx 2:20)

2:26 Tram Station (Base of stairs)

Below is a brief recap of the trip with swim/bike/run details:

Day 1:
Check into hostel.  
Build bike.  
Note to self: don’t pack almond butter in bike box--it explodes.  

I cleaned off Tuktuk (my bike) and idled up the coast for a few hours on flat legs.  Hello beautiful people!  I’d forgotten of the tattoos, lips, boobs, and butts that make north San Diego County so pretty.  In it’s own ‘trying too hard hard not to to try at all’ fashion, N. SD County is very pleasant place from the saddle of a bike. Good coffee at ‘The Loft’.

Day 2:
AM: 3k Swim. Encinitas YMCA.
PM: 80mile ride.  Heading east from El Cajon to Pine Valley on a local classic 80 miler with plenty of vert and sweat.

Day 3:
AM: run + strides. Sunset Cliffs dirt trail on bluff.
Mid: 90 mile ride w/ 9,000ft vert on Mt. Palomar; world class riding.

Day 4:
AM: 4k swim w/ 10x200. Encinitas YMCA
Mid: 90 mile ride, 8,000ft+ vert via Temecula around and up Mt. Palomar from opposite side.  Much more gentle climb, very aesthetic.

Day 5:
AM: Mt. San Jacinto Jaunt (FKT) Skyline Trail.  “Cactus to Clouds”
Total time 2:26
PM: easy 2k recovery swim. Palm Desert Aquatic Center.

Day 6: AM: 3hrs Spin up to Mountain Center. High winds, good views.

Day 7: AM: Swim; 3,500meters MS 25x100. Palm Springs Aquatic Center.
Mid: Ride: 3:45 easy/mod in the rain
PM: 1:10 Easy/mod run. On the canal to see black dirt flash floods.

Day 8: AM: 3hr up to 6,500ft on Jacinto. Sunrise start. Just after a rain. So perfect.
Mid: 4hr mod./steady Ride. Out on Dillon Rd. with a head wind. Head wind and chip seal; locals like Dillon Rd.; I don't.

Day 9: AM: 4hr spin to La Quinta from PS. If I win the lotto I'm going to La Quinta; green grass in the middle of the desert...what's that green grass costing the Colorado River?


Thank you:
La Sportiva....happy feet
PBM Coaching...Kurt is an amazing coach.
Bonk Breaker....real food, in a bar headlamps on the market
Smart Cells...insoles for long days and recovery
Woodinville Bicycle...I don't care who you are or where you live, this shop is better.
Orca/Orbea...Keeping aero sexy


Mom, Dad, Allison, Mathew, Alycia; I am nothing without you.


Your pal,


Pictures from the trip that I can't seem to get perfect; very organic.

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